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Drivetrain Malfunction on a BMW: Should You Be Worried? 

  • Cars Explained
  • Ray Sanders
  • 5 minutes

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If you drive a BMW, you must have noticed a “Drivetrain malfunction. Drive moderately” error message on the iDrive screen. This, which means something is wrong with the transmission or engine, can be a real headache if not properly taken care of. Read along to learn more about a drivetrain malfunction on a BMW, its causes, and if it is expensive to fix.  

What does the drivetrain in a BMW do? 

Like every car, the drivetrain on a BMW is responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the wheels. A drivetrain system consists of the transmission, wheels, axles, differential, and CV joints. A slight issue with any of these components can affect your car’s regular performance.  

What does Drivetrain Malfunction Indication on a BMW mean? 

A Drivetrain Malfunction Indication on your BMW can essentially mean that the Engine Control Module (ECM) has detected an issue with the transmission or the engine. It can also mean that the ignition or fuel systems are in trouble.   

Upon this detection, the ECM will automatically cap the torque it produces to protect the vehicle from potential harm. This is known as the limp mode or safe driving mode, which helps to safely move your car for service. 

Drivetrain malfunction BMW

BMW Drivetrain Malfunction Symptoms 

When your BMW displays a “Drivetrain Malfunction” error, don’t panic. Instead, it’s a warning that the driver should check for and repair any broken parts before they cause more serious damage to the vehicle. These are some of the symptoms associated with it: 

  • Check engine light indication.  
  • Drivetrain error indication on the iDrive screen. 
  • Lack of power while trying to overtake another vehicle on a highway. 
  • Rough idling. 
  • The engine cuts off during idling or while putting into Drive (D) mode. 
  • Your BMW does not start. 
  • Occurrence of thicker smoke from the exhaust. 
  • Excessive vibrations inside the cabin. 

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Causes of Drivetrain Malfunction in a BMW 

Damaged spark plugs 

Worn-out spark plugs can lead to engine misfires. This is because older spark plugs cannot produce the adequate amount of spark needed to fire the engine, leading to a Drivetrain Malfunction indication.  

Faulty ignition coils 

The ignition coil is responsible for supplying the spark plugs with electricity. If the ignition coils are damaged, it will be difficult to supply power to the spark plugs, resulting in misfires and a decrease in engine output. 

Faulty fuel injectors/ fuel pumps 

When the fuel injectors or fuel pumps are faulty, it means that there is not enough fuel reaching the combustion chamber, which leads to a drop in power and performance. Thus, a drivetrain malfunction indication will pop up on your BMW as there’s insufficient power transfer through the drivetrain. 

Catalytic converter malfunction 

A catalytic converter helps to break down harmful gases into less harmful byproducts. It converts gases like carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide into carbon dioxide and water vapor. A faulty catalytic converter can cause to release the vehicle’s exhaust to release less gas per second, causing the pressure to rise. So, this leads to a drivetrain malfunction indication on your BMW. 

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Restart the engine  

Sometimes, a simple engine restart would be more than enough to get rid of the drivetrain malfunction indication on your BMW. If you find this warning while driving, just pull over, turn your car off for ten minutes and try restarting it again.  

Inspect the engine 

If a drivetrain malfunction alert pops up, don’t forget to check your engine for oil and coolant levels, leaks, and also the drive belt. 

Scan for error codes. 

By connecting a code scanner to the OBD II port, you can read the Diagnostic Trouble Code associated with the fault on your BMW. After this, you can refer to your car’s user manual to find out what it means and fix it accordingly. However, ensure that you use a code scanner that is compatible with a BMW.  

Replace parts 

As discussed above, spark plugs, ignition coils, fuel pumps, and a damaged catalytic converter are just some of the many potential causes of a drivetrain malfunction. If any of these components are damaged, they must be replaced immediately. 

Fill better fuel 

Sometimes, excessive usage of low-octane fuel can lead to a drop in engine power. However, by using high-octane fuel, you can avoid this power loss and, subsequently, the drivetrain malfunction indication on your BMW. 

Is it okay to drive with a drivetrain malfunction on my BMW? 

You could technically drive with one, but it’s not a good idea. Although your vehicle’s performance would suffer due to the loss of power, you might be tempted to keep your foot on the gas in the face of this diminished capability, potentially causing serious damage to the car’s internals. Therefore, as soon as the car enters limp mode, it is preferable to get it to the nearest service station as soon as possible. 

What is the cost to repair a drivetrain malfunction in my BMW? 

Depending on which component needs to be replaced to get the “drivetrain malfunction” message to go away, fixing a BMW can cost up to $2,500. A spark plug replacement won’t break the bank, coming in at around $100. Catalytic converter replacement can be pricey, costing as much as $2500, depending on the brand you purchase. 

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